The Time Brokers


Charles Danbee

January 2000

It's nice to see Doctor Who go back to its roots of using historical settings. There is a good feeling of the Old West during the first half of the story, and even during the bar scene on the Space Station. Additionally, the Crenach makes a great villain for nightmares, excellently set up by the Doctor's believable fright at the thought of its existence. Overall, though, it seems a little on the thin side, story-wise. But not a bad story to round out a good season, even if it is a little shorter than some of the others. (4/10)


Gareth Preston

May, 1998

"The Time Brokers" had a intriguing concept, offering people an escape into the golden past and then taking it away from them. Very emotive stuff. Unfortunately, it all got a bit confused in the second half and I had to rewind to find out how the Doctor has resolved the story. At times the incidentals threatened to drown out everyone. The best performance came from the Doctor, even if at times I was irresistably reminded of the spaced out comedy character Dr Denzil Davis from the BBC's "The Fast Show".


John Parr

September 2007

The Time Brokers is the fifth and final story from Jeffrey Coburn's first series as The Doctor. It has a total of four episodes, each with slightly shorter durations than usual.

To begin with, I felt that the storylinewas a very good one. I've always wanted to know a little more about the characters of Kartz and Reimer. The Two Doctors has always been a favourite Doctor Who story of mine, and so I felt that a practical sequel to it was a great idea!

Just like some of my other reviews, I can't really find anything to be negative about. Once again, the story seemed to be almost perfectly produced. I did feel that Jym DeNatale's voice as Kartz sounded a little like Arnold Schwarzenegger's, but I suppose that, in many ways, this actually worked very well.

It's a shame that Comdr. Mark Triyad's character was written out of the first three episodes, and only to appear at the conclusion of Part Four. However, his character has had to be written out of various other stories in the past, so his absence in this serial didn't come much of a surprise to me.

I quite liked the Western feel of the first two episodes. Having a Western setting isn't something that has been regulary used in Doctor Who history. However, the ordinary futurisic space settings were returned to in the third and fourth parts. I also sometimes still feel that the character of Daniel would have made a good companion. Although, with Comdr. Mark Triyad's companion having to be made absent from a few stories, having yet another companion maybe wouldn't have been right at that time in The Doctor Who Audio Dramas history.

As a final comment, I think that The Time Brokers worked extremely well as a story. Only very few aspects can be noted for improvement, but other than those, yet another very good story from The Doctor Who Audio Dramas!

5/10


Ben Chatham

March 2008

Plot:

The TARDIS arrives in the wild west where the Doctor is mistakenly blamed for the strange murder of a family of farmers. Escaping a lynching, the Doctor discovers the family were not, in fact, human and they were killed by having their life essences drained. Looking for clues, the TARDIS crew get caught in a time corridor and arrives on the Mintaka Space Station, where two men called Kartz and Riemer are offering a special service of allowing alien beings to live in specific points in history throughout the universe, and then sucking the life force out of the customers after fifty years. Why? So they can feed the Ancient Gallifreyan Boogeyman, the Crenach, who promises to hand over the secrets of time travel (even though Kartz and Riemer know the important bits already). The Crenach wants to eat the TARDIS so it can fully charge up and escape the quarry planet it was exiled to, and it eats Kartz and Riemer when they overlook the fact that prehistoric energy vampires are not what you’d call honorable. It starts to eat the TARDIS, but is overfed and explodes in an unimpressive bang when the Doctor tricks it to eat too fast.

Story:

Forced by outside influences to be the season finale rather than the more ‘epic’ Empire of the Daleks, The Time Brokers starts off with a reasonable enough premise: since the Doctor has helped a majority of his companions find new lives in times and places not their own, there must be other people who would a like a similar chance, and is thus, a business opportunity. However, it doesn’t take advantage of this temporal real estate agency, and whereas most Doctor Who stories would jump at the idea of evil twists on loan repayments, bailiffs and the fine print, The Time Brokers barely gives the idea more than a mention and Kartz and Riemer come across more as hired assassins than dangerous dodgy loan sharks.

The concept of aliens wishing to live out lives in different periods is only given a cursory examination as well, with only two of the customers being shown. As Kartz note that all their clients assumed they could cheat the ‘death after fifty years’ part of the contract by various means, it’s odd that they didn’t say, turn up to find an ambush ready and waiting for them. This leads to the so called ‘moral arguments’ of the story where Kartz justifies his actions as being legal and thus morality does not come into it, while Riemer seems more squeamish than moral, and gives the impression he doesn’t care about the victims’ fates as long as he doesn’t have to actually see it. Exactly why Kartz has to travel with Reimer is not explained, since Riemer would ultimately be a lot more useful staying at home minding the office.

Kartz and Riemer are, of course, the unseen time scientists mentioned in the first episode of The Two Doctors and, it is heavily implied, killed in the Sontaran sneak attack. Thus, the story features two characters who are completely different to the Kartz and Riemer of televised Doctor Who and might as well have been different characters altogether – certainly, they were originally depicted as some of the finest scientists ever, so them having to slum it as debt collectors shows they weren’t sticking to what they knew.

We also have another mythological beast from the dark legends of Gallifrey, this time the Crenach, which apart from speaking in a throaty voice and sucking life energies out of things, is not particularly impressive, coming across as a less-majestic fusion of Chronovore and Fendahl, whose role in the story is never sufficiently explained. One minute it appears the entire operation is a scheme to allow the Crenach to gets its claws into the Doctor’s TARDIS, then an enormous coincidence, then the intended aim was to try and capture any renegade Time Lord (which could have lead to the Master getting involved).

Some parts of the story hint that the Crenach has given Kartz and Riemer the knowledge to travel through time, other parts suggest the Crenach just provided the power to allow their machinery to work, and there are hints the Crenach was just allowing their business to run without alerting Gallifrey to the time travel going on. In either case, the Crenach must be using more energy helping Kartz and Riemer than they can possibly be sucking out of their customers, and why it establishes a telepathic link with only one of the scientists is never made clear. Finally, its defeat at the hands of the TARDIS is confusing unless we assume that the fact the TARDIS is far more powerful than the Crenach expected, which begs the question of why it didn’t realize this in the first place.

The style of the story owes a lot to the Sixth Doctor era with its distinct inability to create unity of action. Quite simply, the first two episodes in the wild west prove of no real value to the plot – despite all the effort of building up the characters of the town folk, they vanish from part two onwards and never reappear, only to be introduced to a similar wild west atmosphere of the Mintaka Space Station, which is forgotten in favor of a dead planet for the last episode. The Sheriff, The Deputy, Miss Kitty, none have any major role in the story and might as well have been discarded. The 19th century America scenes could have been a single cutaway for all it mattered, and the space station scenes defy logic. Quite simply, the idea that working time travel could be widely known to be available yet there is no media coverage, or governments trying to get it for their own ends is ridiculous. Exactly what Miss Kitty’s connection with the Time Brokers is never established, nor why an alien bartender in the future would have such a name in the first place.

Another idea batted about in the early to mid-nineties by The New Adventures (taking hints from the ‘Cartmel Masterplan’, if you can call it that) was the Doctor having a secret link to Ancient Gallifrey, in particular to Omega and Rassilon. Some suggest the Doctor is somehow the mysterious third figure (the Other) reincarnated, while others maintain the Doctor is somehow Rassilon himself. Although this idea does rob the Doctor of a lot of his appeal (the fact is no one special doing what’s right), this concept is played up in the last episode where the Crenach notes the Doctor’s aura is similar to Rassilon’s, an idea that goes nowhere and even the Doctor doesn’t seem to know what the creature is talking about. This seems to be the germ of the similarly nonsensical ‘dark past’ of the Doctor which would be played up in future stories like Fictional Hypothesis, The Backbone of Night, The Warlords of Apshai and The Chronic Rift.

Last but not least is the baffling use of Mark Triyad in this story. The Audio Drama Handbook: The Jeffrey Coburn Years suggests that the writers found the character too difficult to use in the line up, hence his disappearance from The Price of Paradise, The Time Brokers, and at one stage Fictional Hypothesis. Another suggestion was made that the production team wanted to give more material to the Doctor and Dara (who, bar a few minutes of adolescent rudeness and stupidity, is very bland in the story). However, The Time Brokers instead introduces Daniel, an unlikely Wild West Lawyer with a strong moral sense, who fizzes out in part three and has no role in the story, not even as a ‘boyfriend of the week’ for Dara. Had Mark been in the story, would it really have been so difficult to use him? It’s reasonable to assume Mark could have saved the Doctor from lynching, impersonated some lawman, saved Dara for the barroom brawl she started, and no doubt could have helped defeat Kartz and Riemer in a more original way.

Writer John S. Drew is the Coburn’s era Eric Saward, a talented writer who becomes more and more involved in production and finally creates the next Doctor, an abortive and unlikable incarnation, by which time the impression is given that he doesn’t really have must interest in the central character. And like Saward, there is no hint in the debut story of how bad things will become.

Personal Appreciation: ***
And yet, for some reason, I just can’t seem to care.

Character Stuff:

The Doctor seems heartily sick of both his companion and just wants to be left alone to tinker with the console and repair HADS. He loves Spring and Autumn evenings equally and still hasn’t come to terms with the concept of 'subtlety' as he blabs he is Gallifreyan even when it doesn’t exactly help his case. He’s taken aback at how stupid and violent Texans can be, impressed they made it beyond the twentieth century. The idea of working with false medicine and magic potions disgusts him. He claims he gave HG Wells the idea for The Time Machine (a reference to TimeLash?) and has seen Star Wars. He calls himself a prestidigitator and has mastered a few sleight of hand tricks. He uses the phrase ‘my boy’ a bit too much for it to be credible, and he is obviously an incarnation as he is ‘six regenerations’ after The Two Doctors – meaning he’s either the Eighth or Twelfth Doctor (so he must be exaggerating... right?) The mere mention of the Crenach makes him brick it in the way Giant Vampires or the Fendahl never did. He’s shockingly naive about Rassilon, clearly forgetting all the dark legends about him (and as the Doctor notes, legends start with truth). His energy signature is very similar to Rassilon’s, despite the fact they are not related, so maybe it’s just natural charisma – in its original meaning of ‘the ability to change your own destiny’.

Dara finally begins realize how irritating she is after Mark runs off into the TARDIS to avoid her and the Doctor tells her point blank to piss off. She has heard about Dalek time corridors, and doesn’t instantly try to jump Daniel’s bones, so she’s either got some kind of standards or else seeing a lynching has totally shocked her (unlikely since she is so psychotically unfazed by anything). She finds it hard to read numbers and can come up with a decent cover story about being travelling magicians... only to ruin it by mocking the Doctor’s skills and ******** at him for enjoying himself. She is, as ever, rude, annoying and spoiling for a rumble where others would just have ‘conversations’. For a 1990s English schoolgirl, she has a good working knowledge of American comedians of the 1970s, and actually knows how to use the word ‘unique’ without contradicting herself. She’s hurt at the implication the Doctor is lonely when she’s around. Moron.

Mark is off doing research or stuff to open his mind, but it was probably to avoid the other two. His navigation skills aren’t good when tested in the TARDIS corridors, though.

Observations:

Redneck hillbillies in Texas. Let joy be unconfined. Still, at least the accents are halfway believable. Until that guy holding his noise pretending to be a little boy is heard. Gimme strength. Just a pity they didn’t use the legendary Kentucky Goblin Spree as the basis of a story...

For such a bunch of straight laced prudes, the DWADs have released a story with references to repeated rape, graphic violence, make-shift autopsies and inter-species sex. But no swearing. That would be too far. Mind you, Doctor Who meets Deadwood would be a story worth telling...

I start to wonder... is Dara supposed to be an annoying and insensitive bitch? I just assumed she was spectacularly failing to be an enjoyable and pleasant companion, but with everyone saying how irritating and stupid she is to the point her own friends are hiding from her makes me think she is specifically written to be the sickening crybaby I specifically despise. Good work, DWADS!

While no TARDIS crew has ever had good luck when it comes to murder investigation, the Doctor and Dara have some real bad karma when not only do they arrive on a murder scene looking suspicious, they are caught by an angry mob specifically instructed to be nasty to any strangers in the town. You’d almost think it was some kind of trap...

They gave Chip bloody Jamison two leading roles with lots of dialogue... do you think that, at the time, they had the faintest idea what destructive horror that they had unleashed? If they hadn’t twigged when he started his dialogue as the Crenach, they never would.

The Cloister Bell goes off only when time itself is in danger? Someone wasn’t paying attention...

The town drunk’s acting is truly awful, since it’s just Daniel shaking his head while reading the dialogue.

What would an alien be doing on Earth in the mid-nineteenth century with a wife and child tending a farm?” Dara, I think you might have answered your own question there, you halfwit...

I know the Deputy is a drunk moron blinded by rage... but he doesn’t notice the TARDIS dematerializing when it’s right in front of him?!

For the love of Led Zeppelin! How come everyone in the past have all read HG Wells The Time Machine so they can compare the TARDIS to it? And seriously, the idea that HG Wells was a mindless hack who just novelized meeting the Doctor rather than, say, coming up with the idea himself, is a touch insulting to one of the fathers of science fiction, isn’t it?

Mintaka Space Station. Another ST: TNG reference. Wonderful.

What were you expecting? The cantina scene from Star Wars?” asks the Doctor. Ironic as it has to be the one scene 1980s Doctor Who was desperate to recreate. The Third Doctor said something similar to this in Inferno, but it still doesn’t justify so crass a line. Still, at least it wasn’t Dara that said it...

Dara sounds just like David Segal during the whole discussion on ‘non-human humanoids’. Creepy.

So... the Mintaka Space Station exists in 1989. Someone is definitely not paying attention.

My realplayer’s playing up... no, wait they’ve decided to show the malfunctioning TARDIS rather than by sampling a wonky landing from The Daleks, Spearhead from Space or Horns of Nimon... by pressing the pause button on and off during the landing noise. Can you believe the BBC dare to consider such geniuses 'unoffical'?

Omega’s a ‘creature of legend’? Bollocks, the guy was a household name on Gallifrey, Lord Nelson to Rassilon’s King Arthur! Does ANYONE do ANY research before dropping in these pointless continuity references? Are they even aware that they’re doing so?

No thanks to Sarkol and Vansetti here?” Er, what?!

Odd how a bit of music from The Curse of Fenric makes a straightforward and very depressingly predictable double cross even halfway ominous.

Oh, good use of the HADS! Did not see that coming. Clever.

Just WHY was Mark removed from this story? Because he had no role in the plot? So they get Daniel to be the companion substitute... and do nothing for this story.

Preposterous Plot Points:

Dara recalls the events of Empire of the Daleks. Which haven’t happened yet.

According to the Sheriff and Daniel, the Deputy has wrongly hanged suspects at least once before. How could he stay in such a close-knit town after screwing up like that? Or is the Deputy just talking crap about how protective the community is of its own, and they’re all just drunken, violent inbred morons? And a small town in the middle of nowhere without even a church somehow offers job opportunities in the legal profession?

Daniel understands the concept of a space station (and indeed space travel and outer space in general) which is pretty intellectual for an 1890s hillbilly...

Kartz and Riemer surviving The Two Doctors. The idea that they weren’t on the station and thus survived the attack by luck is unlikely – as Chessene is not the type to leave any loose ends. The duo claim that they were on Earth at the time of the attack, in related time travel work, which is clearly nonsense: The Two Doctors makes it clear J7 was built by the Third Zoners, an intelligent civilization living on the other side of the galaxy from Earth, 1985. Shockeye and Chessene make a big deal about hiding on Earth because it is so primitive and no one will look for them. So the idea that Kartz and Riemer just happened to be on Earth at the same time (they can’t be in any other era because even if their time machinery worked, Chessene took it with her) it leaves the question of what the **** they were doing there? Dastari also notes that Chessene ‘was the brains behind Kartz and Riemer’ who were just glorified mechanics who built the time capsule to her design, taking the credit because Chessene was an Androgum and thus could hardly become famous for it due to the racist attitudes of the Third Zone. So, Kartz and Riemer are unlikely to have been able to pursue a career in time travel since they don’t know how and couldn’t have survived anyway. Then, having achieved this incredibly feat of good luck, they then survive a Crenach attack?

Another related problem is that the Time Lord did get blamed for the destruction of J7. The idea that the CIA, who were using the Second Doctor to deal with it, would forget to remove the incriminating evidence, is very unlikely – as is the fact the same incriminating evidence would have shown the Second Doctor and Dastari being executed. Since the Time Lords could have, if they wished, taken J7 out of time and removed all trace of its existence, surely the intelligent Third Zoners would be surprised at the evidence of the space station being attacked by a ruthless army with rheon carbines? Especially since the Time Lords clearly respect the Third Zone to actually ask them to stop the experiments rather than out and out sabotage, it clearly makes no sense. At all.

Why bother with the Time Brokers, which uses up all that energy with time travel, rather than just zapping the customers as soon as they walk through the door?

Notable Dialogue:

Gratuitous use of the title:
KITTY: You must be looking for The Time Brokers.

DEPUTY: Does anyone here know the Hansen family?
CROWD: Yeah, yeah, might have seen them, yeah...
DEPUTY: Yeah, well they’re all DEAD!
CROWD: (ALL GASP IN UNISON)

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chip Jamison ARE Heinrich Kartz and Gerald Reimer!
REIMER: WHERE we going THIS time?
KARTZ: Ah thart we collect from thar partee we zent to Ollowuss.
REIMER: OH! I remember THEM. NICE couple.
KARTZ: Dey made sarmthin of their time dere. The wule de hentire plunnit.
REIMER: RULE the PLANET? That’s QUITE an accomplishment! Why can’t we leave THESE ones be this TIME?
KARTZ: Dey made a deal wiv us. Ah haff to honor ut. Ah...
REIMER: What IS it?
KARTZ: It’s carling me.
REIMER: NOW? That THING has NO sense of OCCASION! DISGUSTING creature.
KARTZ: Ve need it, Reimer. Rumumber dat.
REIMER: TELL it I said HI.

Dara muses over the plot requirements...
DARA: That’s a tall order!

The Doctor discusses his companion’s stupidity...
DOCTOR: She’s a very ‘special’ person.

DOCTOR: In all my travels, Dara, I’ve learned that every legend has a germ of fact to it. Otherwise, where would the legend come from?

Pop culture reference or not, it’s pretty sinister...
JENNIFER: Who are you?
KARTZ: Deliverance.
(He shoots her.)

No Texans were harmed in the making of this story...
DEPUTY: Don’t try to fool me with your slick words, Doc. I’ve read about you sick ritual killers from back east. Men from better backgrounds, bored with life and playing with it at their leisure, they’re kinda odd... like you.
SHERIFF: Well, if he’s the killer, the judge will make sure...
DEPUTY: The judge will make sure he’ll wind up on the loose. Prisons can’t hold these people for long. They’re too crafty. No, we gotta handle this the old fashioned way. Boys, it’s time for a hanging.
SHERIFF: I’m not gonna let you do this, James. Remember the last time?
DEPUTY: Either you’re with us or against us, Sheriff. Right boys?
REDNECKS: Yee-hah!

Oooh! Subtle:
OREN: But that would be murder!
KARTZ: No, Mistuh Ahrun, dat’s bizness.

Can you detect the morality play subtext? At all?
DOCTOR: Evil. Simply evil.
KARTZ: Nort efil, Darkta. Jarst bizness. All purfektly leeheegul, in fakt. Dat vay ve are habsolfed of murdah.
DOCTOR: I doubt your victims would feel the same way.
KARTZ: Vell, ahm certain ve could argue dat filisoffikul gem, but...

A cunning attempt to make us terrified of the generic monster in the final episode...
DOCTOR: (AGHAST) Crenach...
DARA: ‘Crennak’? Wasn’t that a bit Johnny Carson did on television?
DOCTOR: Not CARNAC!! CRENACH!!

DANIEL: Doctor! You’re turning as white as a sheet! Is the Crenach so bad?
DOCTOR: Bad? Bad?! Daniel, it’s one of the purest manifestations of evil to ever exist...

Kartz quickly gets the measure of Dara...
KARTZ: Ahmayzeen, truly ahmayzeen. Dis TAHDUS of yars is incredabbul, Darkta.
DOCTOR: I’m glad you appreciate it.
DARA: Most people think it’s a piece of junk.
KARTZ: Most people are ideeyots, yarng lady.

Cliffhangers:

  1. The Doctor’s less than convincing defense does not convince the lynch mob, who tie a noose around his neck and prepare to haul him over a tree branch. Dara screams. Bit like The Gunfighters cliffhanger three.
  2. The TARDIS is skewered by the time corridor as the Cloister Bell rings. Bit like the end of Frontios.
  3. Kartz and Riemer materialize in their office to find the Doctor has broken in. Kartz gives the Doctor five seconds to come up with an explanation good enough for him not to be killed and begins to count. Bit like The Ice Warriors cliffhanger four. Only not as clever. Or dramatic.
  4. Mark, hopelessly lost in the TARDIS corridors, finally swallows his pride and uses his communicator to contact the console room, whereupon the Doctor and Dara laugh at the might navigator’s lack of direction and run off to help him. “What an unusual man,” Daniel notes, though whether he is talking about Mark, the Doctor or even himself is up for the listener to decide.

Miscellaneous:

A freak string of bad luck struck the recording of The Time Brokers – the leading man was sick and passed out during a scene, an important bit with Miss Kitty was lost in editing, and the sound recorder broke down. As if maybe someone was trying to tell them something about the story...

What Could Have Been Done To Improve It:

- Have Mark in it. Daniel is totally surplus to requirements.

- A bigger cast or a smaller group of characters. Sheri Divine talking to herself in silly voices can only entertain for so long.

- Leave out the time monsters, and focus more on different points in time and space

- Forget Kartz and Riemer.

The Party Line:

It’s nice to see Doctor Who go back to its roots of using historical settings. There is a good feeling of the Old West during the first half of the story, and even during the bar scene on the Space Station. Additionally, the Crenach makes a great villain for nightmares, excellently set up by the Doctor’s believable fright at the thought of its existence. Overall, though, it seems a little on the thin side, story-wise. But not a bad story to round out a good season, even if it is if a little shorter than some of the others.

The Awful Truth:

Despite the reasonable script and acceptable production, there is a palpable lack of enthusiasm to The Time Brokers, giving the impression it was not a story made out of choice. The plot is stretched thin between the Wild West, a space station and a quarry planet, and the tangled idea of time holidays is not made as much of as it could be. Once again Mark is sidelined for no good reason whatsoever, and then replaced by a character that does nothing, not even get seduced by Dara. The Crenach is just Chip Jamison as a sore throat and does not come across as anything other than another story element. Despite being worlds away from trash like Dark Dreams, it’s not half as enjoyable.


Last updated: Wednesday, March 19, 2008